Rock Bibliography

Over the past 50 years, 1000’s of books and articles have been written about rock and roll music.  Many of these examine the social origins and impacts of rock music.  I have bought and read the following books.  For my current book “Rock In Society” I will summarize the main points of these books as related to the theoretical perspectives employed through my own research and writing.

You can click on any title or image to go
directly to the book’s description on Amazon.

rock save life

Almond, Steve (2010) Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life:
A Book by and for the Fanatics among Us 

Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life traces Almond’s passion from his earliest (and most wretched) rock criticism to his eventual discovery of a music-crazed soul mate and their subsequent production of two little super-fans. Along the way, Almond reflects on the delusional power of songs, the awkward mating habits of drooling fanatics, and why Depression Songs actually make us feel so much better. The book also includes:

  • Sometimes drunken interviews with America’s finest songwriters
  • A recap of the author’s terrifying visit to Graceland while stoned
  • A vigorous and credibility-shattering endorsement of Styx’s Paradise Theater
  • Recommendations you will often choose to ignore
  • Onoxious lists sure to piss off rock critics

Turning PointsBordowitz Hank (2004) Turning Points In Rock And Roll

This book serves nicely as a skeletal history of rock and roll, one that is built around 20 significant moments. One can certainly quibble with the 20 highlights he has chosen, but that would be true of any book of this nature. I’m impressed by the way he’s woven so much relevant material into those 20 chapters. The book’s strengths are its portraits of important individuals, from Les Paul to Elvis to Kurt Cobain, and the way Bordowitz chronicles the important role that technology has played in musical change.

Pop Music PerspectivesCooper, B. Lee (1991) Popular Music Perspectives:
Ideas, Themes, and Patterns in Contemporary Lyrics

In thirteen essays, this book probes ideas and themes that are prominent in contemporary song lyrics. The essays take social change, human interaction, technology, and intellectual development as points of departure for specific examinations of public education, railroads, death, automobiles, and rebels. The essays also examine humor, traditions, and historical events found in answer songs, cover recordings, nursery rhyme adaptations, and novelty tunes.

Rock erasCurtis, Jim (1987) Rock Eras: Interpretations
of Music and Society, 1954-1984

From 1954 to 1984, the media made rock n’ roll an international language. In this era of rapidly changing technology, styles and culture changed dramatically, too. In the 1950s, wild-eyed Southern boys burst into national consciousness on 45 rpm records, and then 1960s British rockers made the transition from 45s to LPs. By the 1970s, rockers were competing with television, and soon MTV made obsolete the music-only formats that had first popularized rock n’ roll.

rock heavenDimery Robert (2007) Rock & Roll Heaven: A Fascinating Guide to
Musical Icons Who Have Joined the Great Gig in the Sky

The final days of more than 100 world-famous pop music personalities are recounted here–not only the relentless rockers of the 1960s, ’70s, and later, but also stars like country singer Hank Williams, blues artist Robert Johnson, and many others who fell prey to tragic circumstances–and often, to self-destructive impulses. Here are the facts behind the deaths by drug overdose of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin in 1970, and of Sid Vicious in 1979. Here too is John Lennon’s tragic death at the hands of a demented gunman, and the details behind the premature deaths of singers like Elvis Presley, Jerry Garcia, and Karen Carpenter. Among the many stars now resting in Rock & Roll Heaven are–

* Buddy Holly *Sid Vicious *Sam Cooke * John Lennon * Otis Redding * Brian Jones * Dennis Wilson * Jimi Hendrix * Marvin Gaye * Janis Joplin * Freddie Mercury * Jim Morrison * Kurt Cobain * Bobby Darin * Jerry Garcia * “Mama” Cass Elliot * Tupac Shakur * Keith Moon * Jeff Buckley

Rock & Roll Heaven is an eminently browsable book, filled with absorbing facts about music legends, and supplemented with a selection of memorable photos. Here too are stories behind the headlines for trivia fans, details of each artist’s career highlights, and a handy fast-reference index for serious music history researchers. Rock & Roll Heaven is must-reading for everyone interested in rock history. Photos in color and in black and white.

not fade awayFong-Torres, Ben (1999) Not Fade Away:
A Backstage Pass to 20 Years of Rock & Roll

From 1969 to 1981, Ben Fong-Torres was one of the first “star” writers on staff at Rolling Stone – the “scruffy rock journal” that metamorphosed into one of the most powerful voices of a generation. Now in this fascinating book, Fong-Torres revisits his most intriguing celebrity interviews and profiles, and – for the first time – tells the revealing stories behind the stories, the stars, his writing process, and life at Rolling Stone.

Rock FactsHenke, James (1997) Rock Facts –
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame And Museum

If you squint, you can see past the Wired-style layout of this densely packed volume into every facet of rock history. Pop art colored charts show the intersections between the histories of rap, punk, rhythm and blues, psychedelic, and Motown. A heavily annotated list covers virtually every one-hit band in rock’s history. Images from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, including Patti Smith’s dilapidated combat boots and Keith Moon’s high school report card, squeeze their way onto the crowded pages. And, though it provides excellent coverage of the unsavory kinds of rock that are often left out of ‘official histories’ such as punk and grunge, this is, ironically, one of the nicest smelling books to cross the Pop Culture Editor’s desk this year.

Rock BabylonHerman, Gary (2007) Rock ‘n’ Roll Babylon:
50 Years of Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll

Gary Herman cuts through the PR spin to expose rock and roll’s long history of decadence and degradation. From the stars of the 1950s to the rappers, divas, and heavy metal icons of today, he details lurid scandals, outrageous antics, tragic deaths, and who got with, shot at, and shot up with whom. Included are the scandals surrounding Michael Jackson, Kurt Cobain, Sid Vicious, Keith Richards, Tupac and Biggie, Whitney Houston, and many others, as well as over 200 rare and revealing photographs.

Mystery TrainMarcus, Greil (1995) Mystery Train: Images of American
in Rock ‘N’ Roll Music; Third Revised Edition.

More than 20 years after its initial publication, Mystery Train remains one of the smartest, most provocative books ever written about rock-and-roll. Marcus puts his subjects–which include Robert Johnson, Elvis Presley, The Band, Randy Newman, and Sly Stone–into their proper context, which is the culture-at-large. He makes you understand why these musicians matter, and what they’ve contributed to the American imagination. In his introduction, Marcus confesses that he’s no longer “capable of mulling over Elvis without thinking about Herman Melville”–to the benefit, I might add, of both parties.

Greil Marcus was born in San Francisco in 1945. He is the author of Mystery Train, Invisible Republic, Lipstick Traces, Double Trouble and Bob Dylan: Writings 1968-2010 and the editor of Lester Bangs’s Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung. In 1998 he curated the exhibition ‘1948’ at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. He writes the Real Life Rock Top 10 column for The Believer and teaches at the New School in New York. He was described by John Rockwell in the New York Times as ‘a writer of rare perception and a genuinely innovative thinker.’

Louie LouieMarsh Dave (1994) Louie Louie: The History and Mythology
of The World’s Most Famous Rock ‘n’ Roll Song

Here, rock critic Marsh (Born to Run, Glory Days, etc.) ventures beyond mere celeb biography or fan-boy appreciation. This cultural history of a single rock tune is an exercise in modern legend-making that also tells “the story of rock ‘n’ roll in a nutshell.” For Marsh, the official investigation of the allegedly obscene lyrics in “Louie, Louie” prefigures current efforts to censor pop music. The lesson in this case is skewed in Marsh’s favor, since “Louie, Louie,” despite years of rumor and myth-making, is really a harmless sea chantey composed by a small-time performer in the mid-50’s as “an R&B dance tune with a hint of cha-cha.” When Richard Berry sold the publication rights to the tune for $750, he had no idea it would reemerge in the early 60’s as a monster hit.

Although numerous West Coast artists cut versions, it wasn’t until the Kingsmen recorded their slurred, one-track interpretation that the rumors began concerning the “true” lyrics. In Marsh’s view, the “protopunk” sloppy recording of the song “is the most profound and sublime expression of rock ‘n’ roll’s ability to create something from nothing.” Down and dirty, the Kingsmen’s version frightened parents and inspired a thorough FBI investigation based on the underground circulation of spurious vulgar lyrics. Meanwhile, the “stop-time cluster-chord” song spawned offshoots by the Kinks, the Who, and Jimi Hendrix. The song was remade by the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, Otis Redding, and disco king Barry White. There are instrumental remakes, jazz-fusion versions, punk homages, and a rap rendition. Despite references to Camille Paglia and Theodor Adorno, Marsh is no Greil Marcus. Though he tells the story of “Louie, Louie” well, his cultural analysis is shallow and dependent on all sorts of p.c. insights. A full discography attests to his central point: “Louie, Louie” lives! (Eight pages of b&w photographs)

beat goes onMorrow, “Cousin Brucie” (2009) Rock & Roll…
And the Beat Goes On

Rock & Roll is here to stay-so get back to the roots of the most exciting, explosive musical era with the man who saw it all happen: legendary radio personality “”Cousin Brucie!”” Capture that turbulent time when musical styles shifted radically, kids didnt trust anyone over thirty, and everything seemed possible. There was nothing short of a cultural revolution, beginning with the seeds of rebellion sown by black R&B artists in the 50s and escalating through the British invasion, surfer sounds, Motown soul, heavy metal, punk rebellion, and beyond. Rock & Roll is about the music and the people. Every major artist presented here participated in the earth-shattering changes that unfolded over the decades, from the time rock started to roll in the 50s. The great melting pot began to burn a little hotter as Elvis swiveled his hips to the screams of teens-and the horror of their parents. Then came the attack of the Union Jack, with the madness of Beatlemania quickly followed by The Dave Clark Five, The Rolling Stones, The Who, and countless others. Petula Clark and Dusty Springfield belted it out with newly emerging girl power. Teens from California and across America went surfing USA to the sounds of The Beach Boys, while Detroit Soul had kids dancing in the streets. Hippies flew high on Jefferson Airplane–and Woodstock galvanized a nation. Records like Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band and Pet Sounds changed the way music was produced forever. The list of artists who parade brilliantly across these pages is nothing less than breathtaking: Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and the Doors, Rod Stewart, the Allman Brothers, Alice Cooper, Billy Joel, and so many more.

More than 300 photographs–many of them rare–portray the exhilarating time, and “”Cousin Brucie”” puts the music in context by connecting it to goings-on in the wider world. The songs unfold against a backdrop of social upheaval, from JFK, Martin Luther King, civil rights, and anti-war movements to the first Earth Day, Batman, Womens Lib, and Watergate. The book teems with archival photography, posters, album covers, record labels, newspaper articles, magazine covers, poems, quotes, and more. Bonus: Bruces greatest artists of the era, with their top 250+ songs, and an amazing array of sidebars and stories about the history and background of rock and the world the way it was. And youll be blown away by the Rock and Roll Dictionary–all the slang you loved to hear.

Classic Rock StoriesMorse, Tim (1998) Classic Rock Stories:
The Stories behind the Greatest Songs of All Time

The first time on the open road with Dad’s beat-up clunker and a brand-new driver’s lecense. That first kiss. Practicing Steve Tyler moves in the garage. Lazy summer days with nothing to do but hang out with a group of friends and the radio. Classic Rock. In Classic Rock Stories, classic rockers reveal the sometimes painful, sometimes accidental, and often hilarious process of creating the songs that you can still sing aloud. In their own words, rockers like Pete Townshend, John Lennon, Stevie Nicks, Elton John, and Keith Richards tell about the drugs, the pain, the love gone bad, and the accidents that resulted in the hits.

dumbest thingsMoser, Margaret and Bill Crawford (1998)
Rock Stars Do the Dumbest Things.

Aerosmith. Elvis Presley. Michael Jackson. Nine Inch Nails. Ozzy Osbourne. U2. What do all of these artists have in common? They’re rich and rowdy rock ‘n’ roll renegades whose wild stunts, dumb quotes, and out-of-control lifestyles are featured in Rock Stars Do the Dumbest Things.

  • –Where else will you find an explanation (goodness knows, we need one) of the Spice Girls’ fourteen and one-half minutes of fame straight from the mouths of babes–Baby Spice, that is? “We’re like a religious cult.”
  • –Or where will you learn Izzy Stradlin’s (of Guns N’ Roses) deep thoughts on the virtues of vomiting out of a bus going sixty-five miles an hour?
  • –And how live octopuses end up in a bathtub with Led Zepplin’s female playmates?

Whether you’re a Metallica or Madonna fan, you’ll get plenty of jaw-dropping facts and anecdotes, along with biographical and career highlights of over eighty-eight raunchy rock ‘n’ rollers.  From current stars like Marilyn Manson and Courtney Love, to classic rockers like the Rolling Stones and the Eagles, Rock Stars Do the Dumbest Things is proof that rock music is still crazy after all these years.

Rock & Roll: An Unruly History

Palmer, Robert (1995) Rock & Roll: An Unruly History

Rock and roll is a profoundly American art form, the musical expression of revolutionary changes in popular culture and values, a Dionysian eruption that hit the white-bread fifties like a hurricane.  It was a force destined to shake up subsequent decades and transform American culture.  Throughout its nearly four-decade history, rock and roll has continued to reinvent itself, to challenge, to upset as well as delight, to break rules and make new ones.

Rock & Roll: An Unruly History is the companion guide to PBS’s ten-part series on rock that aired in September.  When PBS first conceived the Rock & Roll series, they sought out Robert Palmer, an acclaimed rock historian, writer, and the New York Times‘s first full-time pop music critic, to help assemble the names, events, and landmarks that are the terrain of rock history.  Palmer acted as the chief advisor to the series and it was this association that inspired him to write ROCK & ROLL:  An Unruly History.

ROCK & ROLL traces the course of rock’s rich history through Palmer’s own perceptions and experiences. Incorporating countless interviews with rock personalities that he has conducted over the last three decades, ROCK & ROLL follows rock’s road of creative flashpoints, but diverges, too, to explore the fundamental traditions that have helped define both the music and its culture.  With a corresponding chapter to each part in the series, ROCK & ROLL shows how people, places, and events from rock “gods” to little known session musicians, from Muscle Shoals, Alabama, to the far reaches of West Africa shaped and defined the music’s most important epochs.  Yet, to give rock the more in-depth analysis that it deserves, Palmer has written three additional essays “I Put a Spell on You,” “Delinquents of Heaven, Hoodlums from Hell,” and “The Church of the Sonic Guitar” which  respectively explore the rudiments of rhythm, the ritual of rebellion, and the story of the “six-string” in rock.

In ROCK & ROLL, Robert Palmer traces rock’s ongoing evolution, showing how its many styles and early influences from blues and gospel to reggae, punk, and rap overlap and distinguish themselves from one another.  With more than one hundred and fifty illustrations,  ROCK & ROLL is the best of the two primary approaches to rock and roll history the history of innovative flashpoints, and the history of an ongoing tradition.  As told through the senses and lifelong  experiences of one of rock’s preeminent critics, ROCK & ROLL is the most insightful and intelligent history of rock ever written.

history - RSThe Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll:
The Definitive History of the Most Important Artists and Their Music(1992)

The ultimate illustrated history of rock & roll–comprehensive, authoritative, and fully updated with coverage of the most important new sounds and artists of the 1980s and `90s.

history and stylisticStuessy, Joe and Scott D. Lipscomb (2008)
Rock and Roll: Its History and Stylistic Development (6th Edition)

Written specifically for the reader with no musical background, Rock and Roll:  Its History and Stylistic Development, 6th edition gives high-quality, in-depth coverage of classic style-setters like Elvis Presley and the Beatles through the Sex Pistols and Beck. Thorough in its historical analysis and joined by seventeen Listening Guides, ”Key Terms” list for each chapter, and a discography of rock styles and performers, this text makes learning about rock and pop music truly enjoyable.

Offering an unparalleled combination, this book provides both a historical survey of rock from its evolution in the mid1950s to the 21st century and introduces the elements of music exclusively through rock and roll. Rock and Roll addresses a multitude of rock variations amid a bewildering array of styles. From soft rock to heavy metal to country rock, each style is acutely analyzed with equal emphasis and an objective point of view.

The Beatles, Elvis Presley, the Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead, and Chicago are only a few of the many great rock artists who are featured in order to exemplify stylistic characteristics throughout the book. Biographical information and in-depth examinations of their blockbuster hits are also highlighted.

The Fourth Edition contains an entirely new chapter of recent developments in rock history, from the return of classic rock acts, through alternative styles including rap, new jack swing, post-punk hardcore, thrash metal, and grunge. There are also useful updates of earlier chapters, the Discography, and the Bibliography.

In addition:

  • OVERVIEWS succinctly discuss the principal topic of each section, for example: historical trends, social interrelationships, and the extramusical environment.
  • MUSICAL CLOSE-UPS conclude each chapter and spotlight the technical musical elements, including instrumentation in rock, 12-bar blues, and rhythm in early rock.
  • A FOUR-DECADE ROCK HISTORY review offers eight basic statements and an editorial reflecting the authors` subjective judgments on the status and future of rock and roll.
  • NUMEROUS ILLUSTRATIONS help you to understand the musical components of various styles.

Rockin In TimeSzatmary, David (2007) Rockin’ in Time:
A Social History of Rock and Roll

The only study of its kind, this well-organized, illustrated volume offers an in-depth examination of the social history of America and Britain through rock-and-roll. Tracing rock from its inception from American blues to the present, the book shows how rock-and-roll has reflected and sometimes changed American and British culture for several generations. It focuses on major music/history connections–e.g., the links between race and the birth of rock and roll; the postwar baby boom and Presleymania; civil rights and Dylan, Motown and soul; the Vietnam War and the shattering blues of Jimi Hendrix; the Me Decade and glam; desperate British economic times and punk; television and the rise of Presley, the Beatles and Michael Jackson; a disillusioned Generation X and grunge, industrial and rap. Features many fascinating photos never previously published.  Chapters are as follows:

  1. The Blues,
  2. Rock-and-Roll, and Racism.
  3. Elvis and Rockabilly.
  4. Dick Clark, Don Kirshner, and the Teen Market.
  5. Surfboards and Hot Rods: California, Here We Come.
  6. Bob Dylan and the New Frontier.
  7. The British Invasion of America.
  8. Motown: The Sound of Integration.
  9. Acid Rock.
  10. Fire from the Streets.
  11. Militant Blues on Campus.
  12. Soft Sounds of the Seventies.
  13. The Era of Excess.
  14. Punk Rock and the New Generation.
  15. I Want My MTV.
  16. The Promise of Rock-and-Roll.
  17. The Generation X Blues.
  18. The Rave Revolution.
  19. The Many Faces of Hip Hop.

For anyone interested in popular American and British music, the interconnection of popular music and recent American history, or the social and historical significance of rock music.

rock generationTime-Life Books (1998) Rock & Roll Generation:
Teen Life in the 50s (Our American Century)

A primarily pictorial collection of superb black-and-white and full-color photographs documenting many of the important happenings in the 1950s. In addition to giving a thorough overview of the birth and early evolution of rock music, this book covers other important cultural developments such as fashion, literature, motion pictures, the rise of the beat generation, and television. The Cold War, the Korean War, McCarthyism and the “Red Scare,” and the beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement are also touched upon. In addition, insight into growing up in the 1950s is provided. What teenagers spent their money on; what they liked to do for fun; their favorite films, songs, and television shows; their goals, heroes, and hobbies; and where they went on dates are all discussed. All photographs have informative captions. The text is brief, concise, and engaging, and serves exclusively to place the photographs in context. There is an extensive list of suggestions for further reading and a good subject index. An entertaining and informative introduction to the decade.-

Instruments of DesireWaksman, Steve (2000) Instruments of Desire:
The Electric Guitar and the Shaping of Musical Experience

Around 1930, a group of guitar designers in Southern California fitted instruments with an electromagnetic device called a pickup–and forever changed the face of popular music. Taken up by musicians as diverse as Les Paul, Muddy Waters, Jimi Hendrix, and the MC5, the electric guitar would become not just a conduit of electrifying new sounds but also a symbol of energy, innovation, and desire in the music of the day. Instruments of Desire is the first full account of the historical and cultural significance of the electric guitar, a wide-ranging exploration of how and why the instrument has had such broad musical and cultural impact.

Instruments of Desire ranges across the history of the electric guitar by focusing on key performers who have shaped the use and meaning of the instrument: Charlie Christian, Les Paul, Chet Atkins, Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix, the MC5, and Led Zeppelin. The book traces two competing ideals for the sound of the instrument: one, focusing on tonal purity, has been favored by musicians seeking to integrate the electric guitar into the existing conventions of pop music; the other, centering on timbral distortion, has been used to challenge popular notions of “acceptable” and “unacceptable” noise. Instruments of Desire reveals how these different approaches to sound also entail different ideas about the place of the body in musical performance, the ways in which music articulates racialized and gendered identities, and the position of popular music in American social and political life.

culture and sociologyWicke, Peter (1987) Rock Music:
Culture, Aesthetics and Sociology

Rock music–powerful, sensual, loud, and full of energy. It has changed the face of modern music. But what is its appeal and its significance within contemporary society, and what cultural values does it reflect? Peter Wicke addresses these issues and offers a stimulating and insightful study of rock music tracing the genesis and influence of this diverse aspect of popular music. Beginning with the advent of rock and roll, Wicke chronicles the development through Elvis Presley, and the Beatles to the current music industry, its performers, and the impact of the music video. The book will be of interest to students of music history, popular culture, and media studies.

Peter Wicke sees Rock Music as a phenomenon of social action. This phenomenon produces new experience in art, that, within the framework of a high-grade, technology-dependent mass culture. Of course, while this characteristic of rock music functions as an aesthetic development in the history of mass culture especially, it makes possible to express the real estates of teenager’s life. Peter Wicke, as an analyst and social scientist, introduces a new vision to understand, not only for the rock music, but for the mass culture as a experience of everyday-lives. I think music, as a culture, must have a support which maintain its existence. In this sense, rock music also must have any kind of support for its existence. Wicke structures the support of rock music with the need of teenagers and media industry. This vision of social-structural idea become a yardstick to explain the social phenomenon of teenagers’ rock-cult. So we, from the vision of social-dependent characteristic of rock music, understand the real estates that rock music and its industry. Now from this book, we have establish a landscape of mass culture that is dominant to our everyday-lives

best singlesWilliams, Paul (1993) Rock and Roll: The 100 Best Singles

Williams, the former editor of the seminal rock magazine Crawdaddy! , offers his choices for the best 100 rock’n’roll singles. Basing his selections on emotional impact rather than chart position or historical significance, he picks songs from Robert Johnson’s 1937 hit “Terraplane Blues” to Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” (1989). Except for a few surprising picks like Anita Ward’s “Ring My Bell” (1979), Williams generally includes well-known songs by such recognizable rockers as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry, Prince, the Sex Pistols, and Bob Dylan. He devotes equal space to the four decades of rock. Writing in a breezy, journalistic style, the author provides general readers with a solid consumer guide to the best in rock singles.

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